person holding dandelion flower

What if you are enough; what if you have enough

At about this time two years ago, I read What if this were enough? a book of essays by Heather Havrilesky. After a prolonged self-improvement/professional development rampage, I was having a bit of an existential crisis and that somehow led me to Havrilesly’s book (along with Oliver Burke’s delightful The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking and Anne Lamott’s essential book, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope).

My kitchenette remodel notwithstanding, I have started to train myself to be satisfied with what I have and who I am. Our society is a bit relentless and promoting the ongoing pursuit of acquiring more and more and becoming better and better. It’s exhausting. 

We all need a time out. Or maybe we just need an out. 

Something about this book sticks with me in a way that others often don’t. It’s a cautionary tale about striving for a perfect state of perfection. Havrilesky reminds us there is no ideal version of us waiting in the future. All we have is our imperfect selves in the imperfect now.

You don’t need to be thinner, richer, better dressed, a fancier car, three vacation homes, new jewelry, an Instagram-curated life to love yourself as you are right now. It’s a standing invitation that we can accept at any time.

So why not now? Love yourself. You can still grow and improve if you want to, but you deserve love right now. 

Check out this PBS Books interview with Heather Havrilesky.

Photo of a folded quilt

Poppin’

I’ve been taking a few quilt classes to level up my skills and learned a technique called popping the seam. You can use this technique when four blocks come together at an intersection, and the combined seam allowances create an unwieldy lump. Popping the seams flattens the intersection by distributing the seam allowances. It’s nothing short of magic.

See for yourself.


Photo by Nathan Bang on Unsplash

Bright paint stripes on a white background

Adventures in Painting: The Kitchen Cabinet Edition

We have a kitchenette in one of our bedrooms. It’s small but includes an apartment-sized refrigerator, a microwave, toaster oven, coffee maker, electric teapot, a sink, and a handful of cabinets and drawers. We’ve been slowly remaking it. In addition to the appliances, we added a pullout trash and recycling station to one of the cabinets. We updated the light fixture, faucet, and switch plates. We removed the mismatched and chi-blocking shelving and repaired and reskimmed the drywall. We painted and added a mirror behind the sink. We added a new smaller shelf for coffee cups. We added artwork. We are down to the last couple of to-do’s: painting the cabinets and fixing the grout. 

The cabinets are builder standard oak cabinets from the 80s. We had similar cabinets in a former kitchen that we had professionally painted, and the transformation was incredible. It completely updated the kitchen at a fraction of the price of new cabinets.

Given the much smaller scale of the kitchenette, we decided to DIY it. I found some inspiration from a fellow DIYer and that led me to General Finishes paint. The prep work is significant: clean, sand, clean, sand some more, clean some more, apply sanding sealer. Then paint, let dry, paint a second coat, let dry, top coat, let dry, a second coat, and lots more dry time. 

It’s going well, but it’s a long process. And frankly, I am afraid to be anything but thorough lest we risk having to start all over again. Plus, we discovered that one of the drawers needs repair work and the turnaround rack in the corner cabinet was unbelievably filthy. 

We ordered new hardware and hope that we found an exact match for the hinges, and the new handles are very ooh-la-la. 

Maybe an update and big reveal next month! Stay tuned…

Coffee cup on a white background

The Minimalism Experiment Continues

Now that I think about it, I’m not sure how I stumbled upon The Minimal Mom on YouTube, but now I’m a regular viewer. I have taken many small steps toward minimalism, including reading The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker. I now know that I misunderstood a key tenant of minimalism. It’s not the same as minimalism in art, and it doesn’t mean forsaking all possessions (although it might). It means having enough. It means having what you need.

I can now see that my particular challenge is in having multiples (10 pairs of jeans, three sets of flatware, five Christmas trees, three sets of queen size sheets …. and we no longer have a queen-sized bed!) and also in keeping things that I no longer need either because they are nice or because I spent a lot of money on them. But they don’t pass the “do I need this?” test.

Here’s the interesting thing: now that I have started, it’s becoming increasingly easier to let go of things. This video on coffee cups (at the 9:44 mark) really hit me because I love coffee, and I have many, many coffee cups. So many that some that go unused. She mentions that coffee cups need to fulfill their purpose. But I only use a small subset of my coffee cups. That means I had about a dozen cups that weren’t fulfilling their purpose. WE CAN’T HAVE THAT! Coffee cups must fulfill their purpose! 

And now I can’t stop. We’ve Freecycled and dropped off two loads at Goodwill, and two stacks are waiting by the door. 

And I have found that by taking away what I don’t need, I see what remains more clearly. And I appreciate it. And it stands out and all remaining coffee cups are fulfilling their purpose.


Cover Photo by Weronika Karczewska on Unsplash

Smitten written in tiles

You can’t always get what you want

There is so much to love about the story behind the meme–and the mittens.

Also, I love everything about this gift made for Bernie from a friend/supporter/constituent. It was made with love and recycled/found materials: recycled sweater, fleece made from recycled bottles, second-hand thread.

I have to say that as much I would like to be as fashionably iconic as Lady Gaga, I am much more like Bernie. I would definitely prioritize being warm over being fashionable. And I admire that Bernie is always exactly who he is. WYSIWYG. And smittens, sewn knit mittens are actually in my wheelhouse, since I am much handier with a sewing machine than I am with knitting needles. And sewing with repurposed materials is good for the planet.

If sewist and creator Jen Ellis made mittens full time, she would probably have enough work to keep her busy until the summer, but mittens are an act of love for her, not a financial transaction. My favorite quote from this interview with CNN: “…sometimes in this world, you just can’t get everything you want.”

But if you try, you can get what you need.

If you need a mitten pattern, check out this one from Fleece Fun: www.fleecefun.com/free-mitten-pattern or this tutorial from Instructables: www.instructables.com/Fleece-Lined-Upcycled-Woolicious-Mittens.


Cover Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

Photo by Jan Antonin Kolar on Unsplash

Spicing up weeknight dinners

I subscribe to the Five Weeknight Dishes email from the New York Times. I often peruse it, but we rarely make anything. Printing off – and making! – three of the five recipes in a single week is decidedly blog-worthy. 

We are vegetarians, so some modifications were needed, and I noted those below.

Here’s what we made: 

Pasta Puttanesca

The best part of this recipe is the sauce. This is the easiest sauce recipe I have ever made. It was ready before the pasta. We used Cento brand canned Italian tomatoes. These are saucy right out of the can, so no need to drain them.

A substitute for anchovies is capers, so we used more capers than called for in the recipe. 

This mushrooms-on-toast recipe was easy and delicious. No creme fraiche options in grocery store pickup, so we substituted sour cream, which worked great. Sliced baby bella mushrooms made this a quick meal, and we served it on Dave’s Killer Bread to keep it on the healthy side.

For the Sheet-Pan Scallion Chicken(less) with Bok Choy we used two bags of baby bok choy and a bag of breaded veggie chicken-less tenders from Trader Joe’s. This dish is way fancier than what we usually make for a weekday meal, but it was quick and delicious. I used less oil than the recipe called for (which is my typical practice).

All three recipes are winners and are now on the repeat list. We’ve made the pasta dish three times in the past two weeks, and I now feel like capers have become a pantry staple. I was the living embodiment of the heart eyes emoji when my beloved started making Pasta Puttanesca last night for dinner. (FYI, Trader Joe’s crushed Italian tomatoes work well, too.) 

You can sign up here to receive the weekly Five Weeknight Dishes newsletter from the New York Times. 


Photo by Jan Antonin Kolar on Unsplash

white bauble

Festive backgrounds for your virtual gatherings

I am not a big fan of virtual backgrounds — they always feel a little off to me, but special occasions seem to beg for a party backdrop. ‘Tis the season for virtual decor, so here are a couple of virtual background repositories that will help you deck the halls for that holiday Zoom call:

Red envelope on a golden yellow background.

Put it down in a letter to yourself

Holidays and the New Year are times for rituals of introspection and reflection. I think we can all agree that 2020 did a number on us. These exercises are both inspired by a coaching friend. 

The high five list is your year-in-review list–what did you do well? What deserves a high five? Take 10 minutes and see if you can come up with 10 things to add to your 2020 High Five List. 

I feel pretty strongly that if ever there was a time to lower the bar, it’s 2020. If you kept a decent stock of toilet paper on hand, give yourself a high five for that.

The letter to yourself I learned about last year. You write a letter to yourself and tuck it in with your holiday decorations to be opened in a year. I did write the letter and completely forgot about it until I unpacked the holiday bins a few weeks ago. I thought the letter would be one long joke given the dumpster fire of a year that we’ve had, but I was pleasantly surprised at the many things I did and learned. The goals I set for 2020 weren’t all for naught. 

Thanksgiving cactus

Thanksgiving cactus: Success at last!

In 2017, I adopted a gorgeous Thanksgiving cactus. (Wondering about the difference between Thanksgiving and Christmas cactuses? Me, too! It’s the shape of the leaf.) I’ve had limited success getting seasonal plants to rebloom, but recent success with my amaryllis bulb collection gave me hope. 

My Thanksgiving cactus is huge and looks very healthy, but it hasn’t bloomed since our first Christmas. I did all kinds of things to keep it cool,  in the dark, limit water, etc. No luck. All leaves, no blooms for the last three years. So this past summer, I put it on our covered front porch. Lots of light but no direct sun. Not in a place where it gets a lot of water. I ignored everything I had read about getting a Thanksgiving cactus to rebloom. I remembered that one of my plant friends brought a similar plant back to life on her porch.

And guess what? I was rewarded. It’s blooming!  It doesn’t have a ton of buds, but it has some, and they are just starting to open up. My plant-loving heart is overflowing with joy. 

beach photo

Grace given and received

Our shipping systems in the U.S. are overwhelmed. I sent a package on Dec. 3, and it’s still taking a tour of the U.S. I thought it was a goner but then received a tracking update after 10 days of radio silence. I mean, it’s in the wrong place. But it’s alive. It’s in circulation. There’s HOPE.*

I know that a lot of small businesses are in the same boat. People are upset and demanding refunds. I get it, I do. It’s disappointing to have something sent by priority mail and realize that those words no longer have meaning. If everything is a priority, then nothing is. That axiom applies to the mail, too. 

My lost package was sent by me, not a vendor, and some of the contents were handmade and one-of-a-kind. So it’s disappointing. I can’t replace everything that was inside the box. Yesterday, I reordered what I could, and I am hoping for the best. 

I’m trying to have faith and be patient with everything I am sending and receiving. Most of it will get to us. And if it doesn’t, we have a good story about the year without a Santa Claus (a.k.a. Priority Mail.) If you can, please let the small business people off the hook. Beyond sending it, they really aren’t responsible for mail delays. I find that when I extend grace like this to others, it comes back to me twofold.
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* Update: Since I wrote this post the package resurfaced and was finally delivered. YAY!